Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bead Stores

Bead shop owners, listen up. When I walk into a bead store, I look for several things. Before I get into what I look for in a bead store, I want to say that by far my favorite San Antonio shop is owned by Ann Pearce.

The moment I walk into a bead store, the first thing I see is whether it is well organized or not. If it's not, I may walk around so I don't seem totally rude, but I'm not staying long and I definitely won't be buying anything. Whether you first organize your store by color and then by stones within that color, or just alphabetically by stone, keep it straight. Don't put your agates with your obsidians. It's ugly and distracting.

If I walk in and pull a strand of, say, amethyst off the wall, I don't want to look at the price tag and see $50. Especially if I pulled a strand of 4mm rounds that are better priced around $10 or less. If your prices are wrong, I will walk out with nary a look back. That goes both ways, though. Don't undercut yourself.

I can't help it. I LOVE looking at findings. Earwires, clasps, metal beads, you name it and I'll probably look at it for half an hour. Don't put pewter with the sterling. It's tacky and pewter just isn't as pretty. Also, don't put steel anywhere near me unless you are a big-box craft store like Michael's. I don't see why you should be selling steel components, or plated components, when sterling or gold-fill lasts longer. Brass and copper aren't as bad, but keep them in their own section and not mixed in with other metals.

If you have large loose stones (pendants, wire-wrap-worthy cabochons) do you have them in an attractive setting? If you have them pushed off in one dark corner, you're not doing them justice. Put them in a prominent place. You will attract the people that love to wire-wrap and use large bead pendants as focal pieces just with these components.

If I walk in and feel a lot of tension, or the owner/manager is up in my face all the time, I am more likely to leave than spend time there. I don't want to look for beads, which for me is a relaxing endeavor, in a place that stresses me out.

This is a big one, and the main reason I go to Ann's as opposed to other places. I can use her bead boards, tools, even stringing wire for free. If I get sterling wire, she weighs it for me (sold by the gram) before I start using it. I don't have to pay for anything until I have finished the piece, and if I run out of time I can put it to the side and return the next day to finish. She also doesn't give formal classes. If I don't know how to do something I just need to ask and she'll show me the proper technique. No charge.

This is a big one for me personally as a stay-at-home-mom. I'm not asking if your shop is kid friendly. Most bead shops aren't and you would be hard-pressed to make it so. I'm asking if I can bring my 15 month old daughter to your shop and still be welcome. My daughter goes with me to Ann's most every time I'm there. She walks around and touches the beads she can reach and pulls the packaged findings off the hooks. I get up every so often and pick up after her, but she never makes a horrible mess or pulls the beads off the wall.

When it comes to going to a bead store, it's generally an exciting experience for me. I like seeing if I can find that next strand of gemstones that will wow my customers or family if I'm giving a gift. I love going to Ann's because her prices are right, and she charges by the bead, inch, or full strand. The best part is, I can bring my daughter. One day, however, I may be doing a show out of town and have to find a store for that last minute thing. Then, I'll have to find a store that stands up to my standards.

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